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The Importer Security Filing (ISF), also known as “10+2,” is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) requirement that mandates importers to submit detailed information about cargo entering the United States by sea. This procedure enhances the security of the international supply chain and prevents the entry of illegal goods. Completing an ISF filing correctly is crucial for compliance and avoiding penalties. This guide provides a step-by-step approach for importers to successfully complete an ISF filing.

Step 1: Gather Necessary Information

Before beginning the ISF filing process, importers need to gather all required information. The “10+2” rule refers to ten data elements that must be provided by the importer and two additional data elements that the carrier is responsible for. The ten data elements are:

  1. Seller
  2. Buyer
  3. Importer of record number
  4. Consignee number(s)
  5. Manufacturer (or supplier)
  6. Ship to party
  7. Country of origin
  8. Commodity Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTSUS) number
  9. Container stuffing location
  10. Consolidator (stuffer) name and address

The carrier’s two data elements include the Vessel Stow Plan and Container Status Messages.

Step 2: Choose a Filing Method

Importers have several options for filing their ISF. They can:

  • File directly using CBP’s Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) system.
  • Use a customs broker or a third-party service provider.
  • Employ a freight forwarder.
  • Using a customs broker or third-party service provider can simplify the process, especially for first-time importers or those unfamiliar with the requirements.

Step 3: Timely Submission

An ISF must be submitted to CBP no later than 24 hours before the cargo is loaded onto the vessel destined for the United States. Timely submission is crucial to avoid penalties, which can be up to $5,000 per filing. Ensure that all data is accurate and submitted within the required timeframe.

Step 4: Filing the ISF

When filing the ISF, importers must:

  • Log into the chosen filing platform (ACE, broker, or service provider system).
  • Input the gathered data elements accurately.
  • Submit the filing.

If using ACE, importers will need an account and must follow CBP’s instructions for data input. For brokers or service providers, provide all required information and review the submission to ensure accuracy.

Step 5: Monitor and Update the ISF

After submission, it’s important to monitor the filing for any updates or changes. If there are any amendments needed, they should be submitted as soon as possible. Common reasons for updates include changes in shipping schedules, container information, or consignee details.

Step 6: Keep Records

Importers should keep detailed records of all ISF filings for at least five years, as required by CBP. This documentation includes confirmation of filing, amendments, and any correspondence related to the ISF. Proper record-keeping ensures compliance and provides a reference in case of any issues.

Step 7: Stay Informed

Regulations and requirements for ISF filings can change. Importers should stay informed about any updates or changes in the rules. Joining trade organizations, subscribing to CBP updates, and regularly consulting with customs brokers or legal advisors can help keep importers compliant.


Completing an ISF filing is a critical step for importers to ensure the smooth and legal entry of goods into the United States. By gathering the necessary information, choosing the right filing method, submitting on time, monitoring updates, keeping thorough records, and staying informed, importers can navigate the ISF filing process efficiently and avoid costly penalties.